When it comes to alternative medicines, research tends to be sparse. This is not because the method is ineffective, but rather because medical research mainly gets funding from pharmaceutical companies.
These companies do not stand to benefit from natural healing efforts, such as Reiki, so in turn, they have no interest in funding research on the topic. However, recently more scientists have stepped up to the plate, as well as non-profits and organisations who are willing to fund the research.
The following is a breakdown of the latest Reiki research in Australia and around the world.
Reiki Compared To Placebo
The most recent research study titled Reiki Is Better Than Placebo and Has Broad Potential as a Complementary Health Therapy" - was published in the October 2017 edition of the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. The researcher was David E. McManus, an Australian PhD research scientist.
The goal of the study was to identify whether there is evidence that shows Reiki's benefits beyond just a placebo effect. This was accomplished by analysing a comprehensive list of clinical studies that have been completed on Reiki.
Only peer-reviewed articles, where hands-on Reiki was implemented, were used (i.e. not distance Reiki). Studies also had to have over 20 participants that were being treated with Reiki, as well as controlling for the placebo effect. This meant that in the study, some participants were given a 'sham Reiki' who would mimic Reiki hand positions and practices but had not received a Reiki attainment.
Dr. McManus found 13 studies that fit into this criteria. Out of the 13, only one showed that Reiki was not more beneficial than the placebo effect. Four of the studies had statistical resolving power that was questionable. These four showed that the placebo effect and Reiki provide equivalent benefits. Eight of the studies, though, provided strong evidence that showed Reiki's efficacy above placebo.
It is important to note that two studies were included that did not fit the criteria because they use rats, not humans. The reason these were used was because of the robust statistical evidence and scientific data that was collected.
McManus then spilt these 13 studies into four categories:
1. Physiological responses of Reiki
Five studies fell into this category. When it comes to physically relaxing participants, these studies offered significant evidence showing Reiki's superiority over placebo. More specifically, the studies showed that in both rats and humans, Reiki was more useful in lowering blood pressure, raising heart rate variability, and lowering resting heart rate. In short, when it comes to triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, Reiki is more successful than placebo.
2. Reiki's role as an acute condition complementary therapy
Two studies fell into this category. While these studies showed that Reiki was no more effective than Placebo, they lacked strong statistical power. In one case, the researcher noted that other data should have been collected in order to provide a more accurate conclusion.
3. Reiki's role as a chronic condition complementary therapy
Four studies fell into this category. One of them found that Reiki and placebo delivered the equivalent effects as complementary therapies for chronic conditions. However, this was the only study that used Reiki as a once-off treatment and failed to use a 'usual treatment' control that could measure patient well-being and comfort.
In the other three studies, Reiki was used as an ongoing complementary treatment. And in all three of the studies, Reiki was found to better increase quality of life, improve self-esteem, decrease depression, and reduce anxiety. And it did this more effectively than placebo.
4. Reiki's role as a treatment for chronic conditions
Two studies fell into this category. One concentrated on how effective Reiki was at reducing pain in individuals who suffered from fibromyalgia and the other looked at its role in controlling pain for those with diabetic neuropathy. In the study that concentrated on patients with fibromyalgia, neither the placebo nor Reiki assisted in alieving pain, reducing fatigue, or enhancing well-being. On the other hand, the study covering diabetic neuropathy showed that both Reiki and placebo could reduce pain. There was, however, a lack of statistical power to illustrate the difference between placebo and Reiki in the treatment of the chronic condition.
The Cancer Council Of Western Australia
One of the more recent proponents of Reiki's role as a complementary therapy is the Cancer Council of Western Australia. They have recently published information on their website describing Reiki and providing evidence for its use.
On the page, they refer to both research and anecdotal evidence. Using this information, they state that patients can gain the benefits of lowered anxiety and enhanced relaxation through the integration of 30 minute Reiki sessions.
The page also states that because of the biological benefits of Reiki, patients can perceive improvements in their quality of life (i.e. their pain, nausea, fatigue, and insomnia are reduced).
International Reiki Research
While Reiki has garnered a massive movement across Australia, it is also being spotlighted in other countries around the world. One of the most comprehensive databases of Reiki research is held by the UK Reiki Federation.
In there December 2017 publication, the Federation provided a list of the many conditions that Reiki research has been done on. It has been proven to assist with treatment of addiction, cancer, cardiac conditions, dementia, depression, fibromyalgia, gynaecological pain, HIV/Aids, palliative issues, and more general biological, emotional, and mental conditions.
One of the more recent studies that the UK Reiki Federation spotlighted was published in 2016. Titled An Exploratory study of Reiki Experiences In Women Who Have Cancer, the study looked into the experiences women with cancer had with Reiki. The study was qualitative and 10 participants were involved.
The study found plethora benefits for Reiki use in women who had undergone cancer treatment. In the interviews, participants stated that they felt a drop in emotional strain, significantly more relaxed, pain relief, and much more. In the end, the study stated that the evidence showed clear benefits to Reiki's use to improve the quality of life of individuals who fell into the same category.
Reiki research has been ongoing for decades. Recently, though, the research is gaining traction and showing statistical strength that is difficult to argue with.